Black Rock City/Burning Man / Destinations / Tips & Advice / Travel

Burning Man Advice from Experienced Burners

The Man 2013

Hey Man, are you tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind like…for a few months.

It would be no exaggeration at all to say that I am now thinking about Burning Man every day for hours on end. I leave THIS SATURDAY, which is really wonderful but also really overwhelming. It’s not just the wistful, “Oh, Bernie Man, love ya, can’t wait!” As open and caring as the community at Burning Man is, it still requires preparation.

Sure, “The Playa provides,” but a week or more in the desert is bound to be more comfortable with some planning in place. I feel like I’ve been preparing for the Burn for months already because, well, I have. Strangely, part of me feels like I’m not even close to being ready. I’m having a bit of that excitement/fear feeling that I had last year before I left. I know I’ll get out there and it will all fall into place…but until then I’m a bundle of nerves, to-do lists, to-buy lists, and an official hoarder of bottled water.

When I was preparing last year for my trip to Black Rock City, I had received a lot of information about the supplies I needed but not so much about what to expect or mentally prepare for. As I was talking with some friends this year who are first-timers, I found myself doing the same thing: “Get this. Make sure you have lots of that. Don’t forget x, y, and z.” There’s this rush — the same one I’m experiencing now in my last week of prep — to get as much information out there as quickly as you can, right on the spot.

But what kind of advice would Burners offer if they’re given a little bit of time to share their absolute best advice?

I turned to some of my Burner friends and wonderful campmates and asked them what the most important advice was that they had for others. I encouraged them to let it be anything — whether it’s an item to bring, a mentality to adopt, an activity to do, I trusted them to have some helpful tips. And holy moly, did they give me some great stuff. Some people emailed me, some wrote an entire Facebook post and tagged me in it, and others still felt it only appropriate to share their advice in person. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Expectation is the enemy at Burning Man.”

)'( Hollywood

Hollywood is someone I talked to in person about his advice. He went on to say that you should go prepared to do anything and everything as opposed to going with one big goal in mind. If you go with particular expectations, then you’ve not only set yourself up for disappointment if said thing doesn’t happen, but you’re less open to other cool opportunities that might come your way.

Burning Man art

Just another day in Black Rock City.

“Don’t get too carried away in the first few days; take your time and enjoy the break!”

)'( Anonymous

“Don’t come to the Burn stressed! Leave it at the gate.”

)'( Katie

“It’s just plain hard to find words that capture something so big, and continue to project the energy as it grows and pulsates and morphs and slides into whatever this beast becomes as the week goes by…The only word I can really think of that might…is: “Love”. So simple and trite, yet incessantly relevant and still meaningful in the deepest ways. Those four letters out there in the desert… rising up… communicating… interacting… breathing… I could see that. And lo and behold, others have too.”

)'( Greg

“Two short bits of advice:

1. It’s hot. It’s cold. There is very little in between. Don’t even bother bringing that mid-weight light summer jacket.

2. Do a web search for other people’s Burning Man packing lists. They are a GREAT way to get ideas of what you might want. Then, before actually buying any of it, talk to someone who has actually been to Burning Man and get their opinion about the details to look for. You wouldn’t believe all the things you should consider when buying a tent, for instance.”

)'( Colleen

Sun setting at BRC Airport

Catching the last of the sun at BRC Airport.

“I’m going to recommend any first time Burner (or veteran for that matter) don’t be stingy:

  • Be open to all walks of life:  meeting different people is one of the most wonderful aspects of Burning Man.  It also can be the most challenging.  Why meet people just like you?  That’s boring.  Collect people like spices.  Make life rich and savory.
  • Be playful:  let that kid on the bike out.  Go play with the art, with the sun, with the moon, and of course, with the people.
  • Be present:  this means being generous with your listening and with your time.  Slow down and listen to the person you’re with, listen to the sounds around you, take in the smells, the sights, the good and the bad.
  • Love begets love.  Cheesy.  Yep!  If you don’t like it, so what!
  • Allow opportunities to give something away.  It could be a helping hand, a smile or even an ice cold beer (over here, please!).
  • Be inquisitive:  You asking questions allows space for others to shine.
I also recommend that first time Burners be protective:
  • Know and stand by your definition of personal space.  Move away or speak up if you feel frightened, violated, or in any situation you don’t feel comfortable in.  Personal space, in my mind, can be violated by someone yelling at you across the street.  Clearly if you are in direct danger, do something!
  • Protect your fellow human.  Same applies for others as well.
  • Help others out if you see them having a tough time.  This could be in the form of hydration, overindulgence or a sad face. Reach out and support them.
  • Take care of yourself.  Make your health THE priority on the playa.  You will be depleted very quickly if you aren’t diligent about feeding and watering yourself.”

)'( Chainsaw

“Take a walk at sunrise. Experience the beauty, the peace and the others out for the sunrise.

And don’t get caught up in doing it right, just bring yourself (and supplies) and wander, see and meet.”

)'( Morgan

Bonnie, a campmate of mine, shared a packing list specifically for Burning Man. As I was looking through it to pick and choose some things to include, I realized it’s all great information to share. As Colleen mentioned (above), looking at different lists will help you fine-tune your own. Check out this updated Gear List for Burning Man that has some things you definitely won’t want to forget!

)'( Bonnie

“My biggest piece of advice… hard to say because I have several thoughts, but I’d say:

Attending the Burn is like anything in life: you get out of it what you put into it. So be open minded. Explore. Be vulnerable. Give it your best, most honest effort. Be your best self.

You’ll be rewarded in ways that will blow your mind.”

)'( Kristen

The Man burns 2013

The Man burns 2013. All the fire & explosions, plz.

Whether you’re a first-timer this year, looking to go to the Burn sometime in the future, a veteran, or just curious about what it’s like, all of this advice is just amazing. They were all refreshing reminders for me, and definitely got me even more excited to pack up and leave this weekend. Most importantly, though, is that a lot of this advice isn’t just for Burning Man — it’s incredible advice for everyday life.

I mean, let’s re-examine for a second: “Don’t get caught up in doing it right.” PREACH.

My advice, too, is appropriate for Burners and non-Burners alike. I also found out that it was so easy to ask,”What’s your number one piece of advice?” but way harder to actually answer it! However, after a lot of consideration, I would say this:

Cultivate the human connections you make. If you meet someone absolutely fantastic and you want to get to know them more, then make it happen.

One thing that’s actually a bit of a turn-off about Burning Man culture for me is the lack of using time. I mean, I love it and I hate it. But I feel like the lack of definite times and commitments makes people a little more flaky than they normally would be. I witnessed a lot of folks making empty promises to others, saying,”Yeah, your camp sounds really cool. I’ll definitely stop by,” but not making a note of where this place was. I guarantee, unless you write it down somewhere, you’ll forget. There is some serious sensory overload happening in Black Rock City, so it’s only natural that you’ll get distracted and completely forget about the amazing camp that one super awesome guy or gal told you about.

Part of the charm of the Burn is that you go where you want, when you want, and you follow what is really speaking to you. But keep in mind that Burning Man is a city of people, and those human connections are what it’s all about. So, if you go to Burning Man, I encourage you to treasure those connections and strengthen them when you’re able.

Last year, I recorded the names and camp locations of cool people I met on a note-taking app on my phone, and then I designated one day to traveling around the city and visiting them. It was wonderful! Everyone I saw was so sweet and so happy to see me again, and it was quite a treat to get to witness them at their home base. Something about that one day made my overall experience infinitely more personal and memorable.

So, do whatever is necessary to connect with people that you really jive with, whether it’s at Burning Man or in default world! Carry around a pad of paper and a pen, use an app like I did, write it on your body using a Sharpie, or whatever you’ve gotta do, and be sure to follow through. I really do think that visiting those friends made me feel like a participant in the city, rather than just a bystander, and it was a great lesson for how I live my life when I’m not at the Burn. I got in some friendly conversation, connected with people that I’m looking forward to seeing again this year, and left with a full and happy heart. ❤

Any Burners out there with some of their guidance that they’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! And whether you’re going to Burning Man or not, what piece of advice resonated with you the most? 

4 thoughts on “Burning Man Advice from Experienced Burners

  1. One of the best pieces of advice I got before my first burn wAs to set my sexual boundaries before crossing the gate. I actually thought this advice was rediculous at first…and uncomfortable to hear from a friend that I do not discuss such things with. I begrudgingly discussed my boundaries on the way to the burn and I am so happy that I did. Burning man is full of everything you could imagine and everything you can’t yet imagine. I was amazed at how it challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone to discover new parts of myself. To my great surprise I found myself having to make decisions in the moment about opportunities available to me. Luckily I had clearly stated my boundaries before the trip and thus wasn’t influenced by the overwhelming experience, substances, deep connections, etc to flex my boundaries. I knew my boundary because I had stated them completely sober, clear minded and fully in myself BEFORE going. Coming home I was so great flu for this advice because I walked away with an incredible feeling. I didn’t have to play the head game of shoulds, shame, and anxiety because I waited to make an impulsive decision. So thank you to my friends for caring enough to have the slightly awkward conversation with me. Now I feel beyond comfortable discussing sexual boundaries and actually feel stronger in stating mine and holding to them. Have a great burn everyone. Be safe and respect one another!

    • That is excellent advice! There is literally everything out in that desert — everything — and knowing your boundaries and limits physically, mentally, sexually, and otherwise is important.

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Pingback: What Should I Pack for Burning Man? | Tremendous Times

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